Kennett Classic: A Vintage Computer Museum

history of computingmuseumschester countykennett squareSeries: Attractions of Pennsylvania

The Donner 3500 analog computer from 1959, used for analyzing audio spectra
The Donner 3500 analog computer from 1959, used for analyzing audio spectra

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is a town best known for mushrooms. South of the town center, there are numerous mushroom farms, which lovingly spread a distinct aroma of the manure used as fertilizer.

The less aromatic town center of Kennett Square has many amenities, such as giftshops, books stores, and so forth. To my surprise, it also has a shop and museum dedicated to the history of computing, which opened in January of this year.

Its full name is "Kennett Classic – Vintage Computing Gallery and Giftshop." It's free to visit, and home to a lot of really cool, historically valuable devices.

During my visit, co-founder Bill Dengan was more than happy to chat about the collection and visitors' interest in computing more broadly. He was also more than happy to demo any of the computers, including an Atari 2600, on which a young visitor enjoyed a game of Frogger.

As Bill explained, the gallery highlighted the growth of personal computing, from Korean War-era technology, to developments that enabled computers to enter people's homes, and become something more usable and desirable.

An old teletype machine
An old teletype machine
Kennett Classic
These blocks are part of a children's toy for learning analog computing. They are positioned in a pin-board and connected with alligator clips. According to Bill, the only other extant version of this game that he's aware of is in the Smithsonian
These blocks are part of a children's toy for learning analog computing. They are positioned in a pin-board and connected with alligator clips. According to Bill, the only other extant version of this game that he's aware of is in the Smithsonian
Kennett Classic
The jolt was the lowest cost computer system you could get. It retailed for $249 as a kit in 1973 and boasted the ability to access 65k of memory.
A 1975 MITS Alistair 8800. The first product sold by Microsoft was a version of the BASIC programming language for this system.
A 1975 MITS Alistair 8800. The first product sold by Microsoft was a version of the BASIC programming language for this system.
A Commodore PET. Commodore was a local company, based in West Chester.
A Commodore PET. Commodore was a local company, based in West Chester.
A prototype of a follow-up to the Commodore PET, unreleased due to problems with some of the boards.
A prototype of a follow-up to the Commodore PET, unreleased due to problems with some of the boards.

I particularly enjoyed getting to look at some of the earlier portable computers and PDA's.

Kennett Classic
Kennett Classic
The Telecon Industries Zorba -- a portable computer from 1983. It was a bit dated even when it was new.
The Telecon Industries Zorba -- a portable computer from 1983. It was a bit dated even when it was new.
This small and simple portable computer, also from 1983 could run one BASIC program at a time. The Zorba is on the left for scale.
This small and simple portable computer, also from 1983 could run one BASIC program at a time. The Zorba is on the left for scale.
One of the collection's treasure-filled rooms.
One of the collection's treasure-filled rooms.
This computer from 1983 was designed specifically for particle analysis, and based on the Commodore 8296. Unlike local Commodore, the Malvern Panalytical company hails not from Malvern, PA, but from Malvern, UK.
This computer from 1983 was designed specifically for particle analysis, and based on the Commodore 8296. Unlike local Commodore, the Malvern Panalytical company hails not from Malvern, PA, but from Malvern, UK.
The Apple Lisa -- proof that Steve Jobs should never name anything after people he ostensible loved. This computer was a more complex, more expensive, and more failure-prone predecessor to the better known Macintosh. This machine, the Lisa 210, was its final revision, later resold as the Macintosh Plus.
The Apple Lisa -- proof that Steve Jobs should never name anything after people he ostensible loved. This computer was a more complex, more expensive, and more failure-prone predecessor to the better known Macintosh. This machine, the Lisa 210, was its final revision, later resold as the Macintosh Plus.
A Nintendo Famicom (1983) with a copy of Family BASIC (1984). It's rather startling how much more svelte this console and its cartridges were compared to the 'bigger is better' American Nintendo Entertainment System.
A Nintendo Famicom (1983) with a copy of Family BASIC (1984). It's rather startling how much more svelte this console and its cartridges were compared to the 'bigger is better' American Nintendo Entertainment System.

In addition to the historic collection, Kennett Classic does sell some vintage computers and components, as well as computer-related merchandise such as apparel and drinking glasses. Bill also hosts monthly meetups.

You can find more information about the museum and shop on its website.